Saturday, May 12, 2007

Dun Laoghaire - gone to hell.

What have they done to the town I loved so well? No, not Derry , Dun Laoghaire.

The town’s main shopping street, George’s St., has been in decline for many years. It wasn’t helped by the “improvements” carried out a couple of years back when large sections of the street were dug up for about 12 months (new sewage system?) and the section between Marine Road and Bloomfields was subsequently closed to all traffic except buses operating a one-way system.

Out of curiosity I did a small survey today, counting the number of retail premises which are now closed on George’s St, between the People’s Park and the junction with York Road.

Would you believe that there are 25 such premises, including the Adelphi Centre office block and the former Iceland supermarket. Many of these premises have been closed for more than a year, with no sign of any activity - lacking even a “For Sale” sign. In addition, I counted 15 empty units in the Marine Road Shopping Centre, plus two more which are currently holding “closing down” sales. There are also 3 large units empty in the Bloomfield’s centre, out of a total of about 10 units there.

Then there’s the quality of the shops on George’s St to consider. The main clothing retailers are Dunnes, Penneys and Shaws, hardly a list of top-flight outlets for a town which is surrounded by some of the most affluent suburbs in the entire country. There are also 8 charity shops, 4 “pound"-type shops, 8 fast-food outlets including McDonalds & BurgerKing, and 6 pubs. Many of the remaining of the shops could be described as relatively low quality. There isn’t a single high quality restaurant on the entire strip. It’s also notable that there are no representatives of the UK high street boutique chains on the street. M&S has opened an outlet in recent years, but it’s limited to food only and without room to expand.

The number of pubs is interesting as, in the 1960’s,there was a George’s St pub-crawl known as “the stations of the cross” (that’s 14!). Two pubs, Smyth’s and Nemo, are still there but listed among the closed premises. Even if they reopen at some stage in the future, it still tells the tale of a town in serious decline. Even the arrival of the multi-screen cinema several years ago seems to have done little or nothing to revive the nightlife in the town centre.

It’s hard to see what can now be done to revive the commercial activity on George's St.. There are major developments underway at the Harbourmasters Yard and planned for the old CBS premises and the Golf Club. However, these may simply add to the traffic congestion and actually put even more people off shopping in the town.

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